Monday, March 22, 2021

2020 Top 10 Countries in the Global EV Revolution


Welcome to the 7th Annual Top 10 EV Countries list — my own very personal version of March Madness! Seriously, this is always my busiest month of the year and to make things even more chill I do this thing too. It *is* literal madness to keep doing it.  Link to the 2019 list (from there you can get to older ones).


  1. The score is multi-faceted rather than representing solely consumer sales. This is a global challenge, to which different countries can contribute in different ways, and the big picture must be in view. Advantage goes to countries that contribute in multiple ways.
  2. New for 2020: this is an EV ranking, not a complete ranking for how cool countries are. However, in the vein of disclaimer #1, sometimes symbolic (yet meaningful) penalties are in order. For example, with increasing evidence of genocidal Chinese government towards Uyghur residents, including forced labor camps, the lack of transparency regarding whether any Chinese EVs benefit from such labor prompts me to deduct 1 production point from China (out of ~25 it had earned). China is already docked 1 long-time point for its leading role in the ongoing criminal abuse of cobalt miners in the DRC. Likewise, on the narrow merits Tesla had one of its most stellar years, arguably earning a production bonus point for the US. However, I won’t ignore that its CEO, among the world’s richest persons, loudly undermined sensible pandemic policies in his home state, thus helping kill more of his fellow Americans and his own workers. Hence the potential bonus point is gone.

The lion’s share of credit for source data goes as usual, to Jose Pontes and his EV Sales Blog. This year, though, I used his input into the EU-sanctioned   more than the original Sales Blog, since it was more detailed and up-to-date. If you want to drown in EV numbers and analyses from around the globe, do subscribe to Jose’s new commercial endeavor EV Volumes (and no, I’m not getting a cut).

I obtained more than the usual share of info simply from my own online sleuthing. Including complete tables for Israel in 2019-2020 which I calculated and handed over to Jose! (Israel is nowhere near the Top 10, but I just wanted to brag). 

Some numbers and percentages in Europe  may look different from what you see elsewhere, because I’ve added light-commercial vehicle sales to numerator and denominator, to make the comparison with other regions equitable.

Ok, if you dare read, go over the fold… I won’t give the punch line away, and there’s more than one surprise this year!

The Tesla Model 3 broke its own annual EV sales world record for the 3rd straight time. In 2020 Tesla sold exactly 1000 of these for every solar-year day.


Back in March-April when Covid hit the West hard, conventional punditry piped up its sorry head, saying EVs (and green policies in general) are a goner for 2020, probably also into 2021.

Then… instead of grinding to a halt, EV sales in most leading markets roared out of the first lockdown with such ferocity, that it made up all the deficit and then some, stopping the dials on 3.1 million EVs sold (70% of them “pure” BEVs). Since the general auto market remained slumped, global EV market share increased nicely from 2.8% in 2019 to 4% in 2020.

Most of this was driven by Europe, where strict cash penalties levied directly on automakers, for each ICE (internal-combustion engine) sold, came into effect January 2020 — and simply worked! The continent’s EV market share tripled, touching the “disruption zone” of 10%. Europe has an unprecedented 8 out of our Top 10 spots. But China, by far the world’s largest EV builder and buyer, also managed to recover decently.

Who didn’t really recover, because its slump is multiple-year rather than only Covid-related? Over here in the US. But we’ll get to that sad story at some point. Here goes the list:


Europe’s affinity to EVs has steep north-south and east-west gradients. Basically EVs are happening in Northwest Europe, and far far less elsewhere. This has lots to do with spare cash; as a new technology EVs have come in pricier than average, and even more so they’ve had that perception. The only exception to this geographical intra-Europe rule was Ukraine, entering the Top 10 in 2016-2018 on the power of grassroots-driven lively market of second-hand EV imports, which seems to have stalled in 2019-2020.

Now Portugal, one of Western Europe’s poorest countries, narrowly beat a tight second-10 field to become the first Southern European country in the Top 10. 

Claim to fame: part and parcel of the regulations-driven surge, Portugal went from 4.9% to 10.7% EV share, with ~20k sold. Sales leadership was fairly narrowly decided between the Tesla Model 3 and Renault Zoe, with previous near-perennial local favorite Nissan Leaf pushed to 3rd. 

Also, Portugal is where Jose calls home.

LEVC TX taxi.
The LEVC electric taxi might still be the only EV that both designed *and* produced on UK’s home turf. Or is it?


The UK became one of 4 European nations to cross 100k EV sales in 2020 (in 2019 only Germany managed the feat — barely), with 180k deliveries and market share zooming from 2.9% to 9.3%. 

Time will tell how Brexit will affect things like the availability of England-assembled Nissan Leafs on the Continent, and vice versa.

Oct 2020: Grace (left) blesses the new Hyundai Ioniq BEV
In October, our relatives in Israel bought this amazing Hyundai Ioniq BEV, designed and built in Korea. It was one of only 30 sold in Israel last year (out of ~1500 BEV sales there in 2020). Globally ~14k Ioniq BEVs were sold.


Claim to fame: Korean EV makers (basically, the Hyundai-Kia conglomerate) continued their advance, nearing 200k made in 2020, while Korean battery makers cemented their global dominance with twin giants LG Chem and Samsung launching factories in Hungary, and more being built elsewhere.

Domestic sales and market share also advanced, from 1.9% to 2.8% on 52k sold, but it’s still nowhere near European or even Chinese levels.

New in 2020, the Peugeot 208 EV.
Never having made a “proper” passenger EV before, Peugeot’s EV version of its flagship 208 compact (range ~300km) jumped out of nowhere straight into #8 in the dense European EV sales chart.


Note the jump in score from the 8th-place country — the countries from here on delivered far more impressive performance.

Claim to fame: Peugeot-Citroen jumps into the fray — but Zoe takes the cake. Domestic market not shabby either.

France’s auto industry is probably the largest Western auto industry that goes completely under the radar in the US. Only Old World savants here have even heard of these brands, which crank out millions and millions of cars per year.

Well, Americans who follow EVs did hear of Renault, which (sort-of married to Nissan) has been among global EV leaders. But P-C, just as big an automaker, was a complete laggard. 

Fortunately, unlike some CEOs and company boards…. P-C leadership saw the regulatory writing on the wall, prepared an entire suite of decently compliant EVs, and roared into action in 2020, selling nearly 70k EVs up from nary a couple thousand in 2019. Together with Renault’s ~125k, spearheaded by the Zoe crossing 100k on its own, France together with Germany was the country that helped meet all this sudden surge in European demand for EVs.

Local demand also jumped, with nearly 200k EVs sold and market share jumping from 2.6% to 9.5%. Electric bus deliveries were a bit down in 2020 though, with an estimated E-bus share of only ~1%.


Claim to fame: sparse schmarse, just look at them numbers!

Sure, 2x more people live within Seattle city limits than in all of Iceland’s huge expanses. But this still doesn’t take away from a 47% EV market share, more than double 2019’s, and also a sharp shift in composition from a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) dominated island to an evenly balanced 2020 mix (yes, there are points for that too). And these EVs are powered mostly by renewable energy.


Claim to fame: continuing to lead Europe in E-bus production and deployment share.

Domestic EV sales increased “only” from 13% to 22% and almost touched 100k, so pretty darn good in absolute terms. But the Netherlands (like some other Euro countries, e.g., Denmark) still suffers from some semi-permanent incentives instability so 2021 started a bit slow.

I finally got hold of reported total bus fleets and bus replacement rates in Europe. Netherlands has ~10k buses, meaning that the 400-plus (mostly locally built) E-buses deployed there in each of 2019 and 2020 were possibly the majority of new buses in the country in those years. Finally someone is following China’s lead on this!

March 2020: heaps and heaps of the shiny brand-new VW ID3 (range 300-500km) had to wait around in the rain and cold until the pandemic lockdown eased a bit.
March 2020: heaps and heaps of the shiny brand-new VW ID3 (range 300-500km) had to wait around in the rain and cold until the pandemic lockdown eased a bit. Its loooong-awaited market invasion thus disrupted, the ID3 still managed to end 2020 at #3 in Europe and #6 globally with 57k sales.


Claim to fame: the fame is all Germany’s this time.

Boy, I love dishing out 4 medals instead of a puny 3! Also, note again a sizable jump in point count from 5th place.

Sweden is no stranger to these heights; in 2020 it did very well, going from 10% to nearly 30% EV market share, getting close to 100k just like Netherlands (still PHEV-dominated though). Volvo Bus also started delivering a couple hundred BEV buses, headlined by a huge order from Gothenburg. 

But that’s nothing compared to what Germany — who, to my recollection, wins its first-ever Top EV Country medal —  did last year…

Coming out of the first Covid lockdown, most Western European countries passed some version of a “mini green new deal” in their stimulus packages . But as I wrote in August, Germany was perhaps the only one to insist on giving subsidies *only* to EVs and not to ICE sales (more precisely, it was the social-democrat coalition partners who insisted). 

This paid back in spades, with EV share flying from <3% in 2019 to ~13% in 2020. That’s ~400k new EVs on German roads in 2020 — passing the US in number of EVs sold last year! Germany may have also narrowly beat perennial continental light-commercial (mostly delivery vans) segment champ France, with nearly 10k new ones.

German automakers were at least as ready as the French, responsible for a weighted total of >700k EVs globally in 2020, supplying over one-third of global demand outside of China. Even annoying Mercedes Bus stopped dragging its feet and delivered what seems like a couple hundred E-buses; somewhere around 5% of Germany’s new buses last year were electric.

Ok, if you made it thus far, then…..  drumrollllll.

The Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV, debuted 2020 in China.
If you haven’t heard of this baby yet… well, you eventually will because it’s been kicking the Model 3’s butt.


Claim to fame: maybe sometimes it’s good to chill back for a year at #2.

China of course started 2020 worse than anyone. The EV market was doubly challenged in early 2020, because the Chinese government with its mixed signals keeps chipping away at EV subsidies. But the swift (and often brutal) pandemic response paid back, the country being open and Covid-free (in lame-ass Western terms, at least) from March-April onwards. The government also delayed the EV incentive-sunset process by 2 years to ease the pressure.

EV sales managed to finish ahead, with ~1.3M sold and market share increasing from 5.5% to 6.3%. Jan-Feb 2021 came in at high single-digits, so Jose is optimistic (barring more craziness) that China will join Europe in the DDD (Double-Digit Disruption) club this year.

Tesla’s now-made-in-China Model 3 won the local crown with 140k sales, but the real surprise was the teeny and dirt-cheap WHGMiEV (see the linked story to decipher the acronym), launched only mid-year and reaching 120k, the second Chinese model to score 6 digits in a year. And two months into 2021 it has already scored another 57k sales! Given it sells for only $4-5.5k, they can sell it all over the less-wealthy world (more precisely, in urban areas with reliable grid) if they can ramp it up. 

As to E-buses, the jewel in China’s EV crown: domestically “only” 61k were deployed in 2020. For reference, in Europe, whose overall bus fleet size seems 2-3x smaller than China’s, somewhere around 2-2.5k E-buses were deployed. So it’s roughly a ~10x factor in E-bus share in China’s favor.

Still, 61k is quite a slide from well over 100k in 2015-2018, and represents ~40% market share, not what one would expect considering the track record. Did the prior-year surge include some bad-quality buses that went bust? Or have subsidies been cut too quickly? I have no idea. 

That said, China also dominates the global E-bus market, delivering and building assembly plants all over the place. In South America BYD seems the only E-bus act in town.

But wait…. with China behind us, Who’s On First then?


Claim to fame: FINALLY!!!

The relative stagnation (and lack of transparency on some key stuff) in China was just enough for Norway to finally pull off a Gold. 

EV market share went from a stratospheric 45% to escape-velocity 63%, crossing 100k on a population of barely 5M. And E-bus action also accelerated, nearing 300 units which on a reported fleet of 16k means ~15-20% market share. If Norway also had an auto or EV-battery industry, no country could catch it in the charts.

Skål !!!


A diesel truck spewing

Yup, yup, yup.

For the first time ever, the gran’ ol’ US of A is off the Top 10, falling short with 47 points. In fact, prior to 2020 the US never placed lower than #6, so this fall from grace is a BFD. 

What went wrong?  How can the home country of the world’s #1 EV maker, who grazed a half-million sales this year and whose #1 model sold >3x than its global runner-up? Oh… Well… Let’s see….

  • Domestic EV sales were essentially flat at ~330k continuing a 3-year plateau, dropping the US to a shameful #3 by sheer numbers. Due to overall-market slump, EV share did inch up to 2.4%, but this is still among the lowest EV shares in the ~40 countries I got data for. If you stagnate and others jump ahead — well, you fall behind. Heck, even Israel crossed 3% last year.
  • We can’t even know what US EV sales were — because one by one automakers have decided to stop reporting them. Remember the days when Jay from had those beautiful detailed monthly tables? Now we don’t even have an annual table, and estimates vary by ~10%. I gave the higher one above; another source claims we fell to <300k.
  • The 2008 $7.5k Federal EV incentive law was good for its time, but had a very bad ending clause that punished the better automakers by sunsetting subsidies only on those who exceed 200k, not on laggards. Not only that, but the two automakers that ended up exceeding it were American (Tesla and GM). Two years had passed, but with a divided Congress and malignant madman at the helm in 2019-2020 there was no chance to do anything about it. 
  • The feckless Big Three rode Trump’s coattails towards doing nothing. I mean, nothing. They probably sold less EVs in 2020 than they did 5 years go. GM is showing signs of life now and that’s good. But I’ll reward it when I see results. For now I docked 1 point from the US on account of the Big Three (Japan also got docked similarly; Japan has been off the charts for a couple of years now). By the way, GM gets more EV production credits in my tallies for its ~40% stake in the joint venture that makes China’s WHGMiEV, than it does for domestic production.
  • And then… if Elon could keep his mouth shut for one pandemic, the US would have had one more point (still 2 behind Portugal, though). Again, having malignant madmen at the top of things is not advised. Even if they are generally smart. Looking at you Tesla.

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end! Wishing a truly stellar EV year in 2021. Personally we will likely make our first outright purchase of an EV this year, after serially leasing 4.5 Leafs.


  1. Gah, why can't people just keep fucking politics out of unrelated things?!

    1. You do realize you've just made a *political* statement, right?

  2. LG has a battery factory in Hungary? First time I hear of that... Are you sure you aren't confusing them with SKI?

    1. Maybe he got too excited and mixed up LG Chem, Samsung SDI and SK Innovation in the Hungary Korean Pot...

    2. Thank you for your correction. I will correct the original.
      If next time you find an error you can point it out in a more positive and collegial manner, then you'll be helping make the Internet and in particular comment threads a better place :)

  3. Aren't transit buses typically replaced after a little more than 10 years on average? Which would mean that 400 new EV buses for a fleet of 10,000 total is probably not more than half of all new buses...

    Still pretty good, of course :-)

  4. The ID.3 early production units waiting around for months in large parking lots had nothing whatsoever to do with the pandemic. They were unfit for delivery due to unfinished software.

    1. Don't ruin a good story with facts :)

      Besides, there's no question the ID3 sales ramp-up *was* pandemic-delayed.

    2. Not really. The (relatively brief) production pause due to lockdowns in early spring happened before the production was ramped -- so it didn't have a major impact on the backlog. And once they finally deemed the software (somewhat) fit for deliveries, they didn't seem to have trouble getting them shipped... (Apparently with some major channel stuffing -- but that's unrelated to the earlier situation of waiting for software on manufacturer lots...)

      While the pandemic is an easy excuse for pretty much everything, in most cases the actual impact on timelines is grossly exaggerated. As someone put it very pointedly: Covid-19 is the corporate world's equivalent of "the dog ate my homework"...

  5. While I have no doubt that the HongGuang could be a hit in many markets, keep in mind that the Chinese price (which starts around $4400 at current exchange rates BTW) is largely enabled by NEV credits (and presumably a sales tax exemption?...) -- and also, at this price point, shipping costs to other markets would add quite significantly to final sales price... Don't expect it to end up much below $10,000 in markets without strong ZEV/emission mandates.

    1. Actually, The WHGMiEV is *not* eligible for credits. The main remaining incentive (which is pretty substantial, so I understand) is favorable chances of getting a license plate that's allowed in the city. Here:

      That's part of the surprise - they managed to make an EV that's far cheaper than other city EVs *after* credits.

    2. The WHGMiEV does is *not* subsidy-eligible. That's part of its alchemy, it came out of nowhere, precisely the type of EV the government was trying to discourage ;)

      It does get EV license plate benefits though, which I hear are a pretty big deal in many Chinese metro areas.

    3. Chinese NEV rules seem to change weekly, but last I heard the Hongguang Mini did not qualify for subsidies but DID qualify for 0.8 NEV credits. Despite exceeding the quota, NEV credits supposedly trade for a few thousand RMB because they can offset CAFC shortfalls (dual-credit system).

    4. Just 0.8 credits? That's a lot less than I expected... Though still somewhat significant, at this price point.

      Also, while direct subsidies are conditioned on parameters such as range that the HongGuang doesn't fulfil, I think all EVs can qualify for the 10% sales tax exemption?...

    5. @Antrik: As i have mentioned on the China posts, the Wuling Mini EV indeed started out as a compliance EV, but its success has propelled it into another different level, with a Latvian company preparing to launch the model in Europe.

      Of course, it is being developed to comply with the EU security standards, that is why the European price is said to be around 10k €. But i bet that if SAIC were to export it directly to Europe, the price might drop to 8k€...

    6. Sure: if they could export it unmodified, 8,000 Euro would sound about right... But since they can't, this is a purely hypothetical figure. The Euro-spec version presumably will need additional things adding to costs; and with it being a different version, it also won't achieve the same economies of scale.

      10,000 Euro for the Latvian variant sounds about right to me, if they can do it at scale... Though I am somewhat sceptical whether it will actually happen -- or whether they will be able to hold the target price.

      Having said that, Europe has stronger emission mandates than China -- so if they can find other car makers willing to pool with them in advance, they might actually be able to offer it at a much lower price than what production costs would suggest... Which would be interesting, to put it mildly. (Especially in conjunction with the questionable "highest subsidies for cheapest cars" policies in many European markets...)

  6. Hello José, I created a Google spreadsheet with forecasts and on EV sales up to 2030, battery and lithium demand. It also contains a list of almost all upcoming battery electric vehicles. It took quite some time to compile all the information (including from your website. Any feedback / additional information is appreciated. The link is on my seeking alpha user profile.

    1. @Stephen

      Nice charts, a kind suggestion, just like
      MHEV: Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle
      PHEV: Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicle
      make it
      FHEV: Full Hybrid Electric Vehicle
      instead of HEV. That way all types of hybrid vehicles having motor and engine will have the 3 letter acronym;
      HEV in there.

  7. If suddenly anyone is interested, then in Ukraine it was registered
    10097 EV in 2019 and EV share 1.77%. of which 93% are second hand

    also 11551 registrations received EV in 2020 and market share 2.53%. of which 84.8% second hand

    1. Thank you!
      Yes, these are more or less the numbers I saw for Ukraine.
      Perhaps the EV market there will bounce back soon?

    2. What was the figure in 2018? 1.77% to 2.53% looks like healthy growth to me...

      (And what's more, the growth in new sales seems much larger than second-hand?)

  8. What went wrong in the US of A?
    Tesla is sucking up all publicity, awareness and subsidies. So others don't compete in Tesla's home market. But they will defeat Tesla on other markets (remember falling Tesla market share in Europe?). When time is right and other markets saturated, then they will also come to US

    1. Tesla EVs in the US are not eligible for a Federal subsidy anymore, only state incentives which vary greatly but are generally smaller.

      So... the opposite of "sucking up" the subsidies.

      I agree about the publicity. But poor little GM was out with its Bolt a good half-year before the Model 3, and I hear it does have a little bit of marketing budgets, production capacity, etc.

      If they really meant it, they could have done far, far better in the US EV market in these 4 years. But at least till now, they've never played the EV game to win, only for show.

      The Bolt EUV should have been the original Bolt (in size) in order to fit American tastes. But even if not, it shouldn't have taken ~5 years to come out with it.

    2. Maarten VinkhuyzenMarch 23, 2021

      In the US of A the competition has to sell through dealers.

      Falling market-share is normal when the market growths faster than you do yourself.

      The top 8 brands did have over 90% in Europe, now dropped to below 60%. Many more brands with many more models will do that.

    3. Europe forces carmakers to sell ~10% EVs (~15% this year), so they do.

      China forces carmakers to sell ~5% EVs, so they do.

      The US doesn't really force carmakers to sell EVs, so they don't.

    4. Keep in mind that the original Bolt is a modified Sonic. The EUV comes with additional changes, which GM wasn't willing to do at the time, since the low-effort Bolt was good enough to fulfil weak ZEV mandates...

      (And making an actually competitive EV on a dedicated platform of course needs a lot more effort still, which GM is only now putting into the upcoming new generation...)

  9. With vast land and frequent long distance driving, people hestitate to buy BEVs. Tesla makes cars with 400 km range, but it costs above $45K. Ideally automakers should make BEV with 500 km range for $30K price tag.
    As more automakers like Lucid, Rivian, Fisker join in, BEV sales will increase and this will force automakers to launch more vehicles. Thats what is happening with MachE and ID.4 hitting the market.
    Best hope is the $25K Tesla that everyone are talking about. But this will hit only in 2023. So change will come, but will take time.

    1. Rivian is promising, but rather niche. Lucid is also niche -- and not even a very unique one... Fisker promises to be mainstream, but it's mostly hot air at this point.

      Beside Tesla, it looks like some of the Chinese makers are to only ones to meaningfully push forward the market in the foreseeable future.

      (While many legacy makers -- though more being dragged than pushing -- are also coming up with increasingly attractive mainstream offerings...)